C.G mix’s second full-length release, pray brought with it a maelstrom of hype unlike anything in Geneon Records’ history. All across the globe, fans were waiting with bated breath to see if I’ve’s resident prince of darkness would deliver on his promise to…
OK, I can’t keep this up. Nobody wanted this album and C.G mix’s solo career has been a gigantic mistake from the very beginning. Let’s get on with the review.
C.G mix – pray (2009, Geneon)
1. under the darkness
2. Everything is assumed to be connected
4. 風をうけて (Kaze wo Ukete)
5. DAY IN
7. Face of Fact
8. Swept Away
9. 破線の標 (Hasen no Shirushi)
12. under the darkness -four piece band mix-
C.G mix has always been an oddity amongst I’ve’s production staff. Photographed more than the rest of his peers combined, the self-styled ‘bishounen’ is also the only one of the arrangers to pursue a career as a vocalist. His first solo effort, 2006’s in your life, failed to make much of a splash with fans and sold badly even by I’ve standards, apathy towards the release largely attributed to the fact that most of the album’s tracks were virtually indistinguishable from each other. That, and saying his voice is an ‘acquired taste’ borders on too gracious – it doesn’t quite grate per se, but it’s surely far from the most pleasant sound one could be choosing to listen to.
Things seemed to be on the up and up for C.G mix when his Kichiku Megane opening theme “under the darkness” first released, its snarling meanness appealingly at odds with the comparatively fluffy electronica of his previous album (thanks in no small part to guitarist Takeshi Ozaki, whose contributions to pray come close to saving the album) and, most importantly, it didn’t sound like the songs on in your life. Its later-released remix further helped to make pray sound like an appealing prospect, feeding into the idea that maybe this new album might have some of the energy his compositions for the I’ve girls so frequently had in spades – hopes that, it eventually turned out, were more or less all for naught.
First things first, though, there’s no mistaking that pray is a marked improvement over its predecessor. Faster, louder, and meaner, albeit very slightly in each category, one gets a distinct impression that C.G’s definitely learning something as he continues to make music. However, just because he’s improved in some areas doesn’t mean he isn’t still crippled by many of the flaws that made in your life so dull, and it doesn’t mean he hasn’t picked up a few new ones along the way. For example, the Autotune.
For those not in the know, Autotune is a vocal synthesizer that’s currently all the rage in pop music, particularly hip-hop and R&B but found in every genre from country to metal. Its primary purpose is to smooth out the kinks in vocal performances, allowing singers to virtually hit notes their actual range doesn’t allow for or just clean a song up in general. A known side-effect of autotune is a generally ‘shiny’ sound to recordings that use it, and the artificiality has led to certain artists (such as folk singer Bon Iver and hip-hop superstar Kanye West) to use its clinical detachment as an artistic statement. However, not everybody is Kanye West, and the noted uses of Autotune in recent I’ve works could hardly be explained away as artistic instead of just lazy: C.G mix’s abuse of it on every song on pray being no exception.
The re-recorded vocals on both album versions of under the darkness suffer when rendered with an Autotune sheen, as the song’s comparative griminess had been a major asset previously. The way every verse ends on the precise same machine-assisted note, the increased bizarreness of the Engrish pronunciation, the background arrangement remains thankfully untouched but that’s more or less where the song’s graces end in this new incarnation. Worst of all is the fact that he uses Autotune noticeably on every song, another sign that C.G mix clearly suffers from an inability to realize what a bad idea is.
The album’s second major issue is a lack of distinction between songs, just as his previous album but modeled on under the darkness rather than in your life’s Welcome to HEAVEN!. Once again, this represents an incremental improvement, yet even with the prototype song being improved there’s no real reason to suffer though the album’s seemingly bloated 12-song tracklisting. Certain songs rise above the others simply through small merits of gimmickry (witness, for example, the C.G mix re-recording of KOTOKO’s “Face of Fact”), but by the time you get to the second version of under the darkness that closes out the album you’re unlikely to have remembered any distinct moments from the preceding 48 minutes. All in all, not an album to be recommended by any means, but enough of an improvement to promise interesting things for C.G mix’s future solo endeavours.